Today, of course, is Halloween – the time when many people put candles inside pumpkins, wear elaborate costumes, and go from house to house collecting candy from neighbors. (We do some pretty strange things sometimes, don’t we?) This is a festive time of year; it’s the last outdoor celebration we will have before the weather turns cold for the season. It’s a time for neighbors to talk, laugh, share, and enjoy each other’s company. It’s a time for children to put more sugar into their bodies than their parents usually allow. All in all, everyone has a good time!
The name “Halloween” reminds me that this is also a time for spiritual reflection. Halloween certainly isn’t a religious holiday, but it does have ties to a religious theme. “Halloween” is thought to be a contraction of the name “All Hallows’ Eve,” which is the night before “All Hallows’ Day” or “All Saints’ Day.” On November 1 (or, for some Christians, another day in the year), the vast majority of Christians around the world pause to remember those believers who have died in the past year and are now entrusted fully to the Lord’s care. The night before All Saints’ Day is, in a sense, a time of preparation for the remembrance to occur on the following day.
Several years ago, I was worshiping with a United Methodist congregation while I was in graduate school. On All Saints’ Day (or the nearest Sunday to it), we gathered for a regular worship service. During the course of this service, there came a time when the pastor read the names of church members who had died in the previous year. After each name was read, someone rang the large bell in the church tower. Although I didn’t know any of these individuals because I had just moved to their town, I felt grateful to be part of a worship experience in which believers gathered to give thanks for the lives of their loved ones.
On this year’s All Saints’ Day – and today, on All Hallows’ Eve – I hope you can take a few moments to pause and give thanks for the gift of life, the ability to buy candy, the opportunity to wear costumes, the enjoyment of neighborly company. And I hope you take a moment or two to reflect on the mystery of life and death: that those who die in the Lord are entrusted to his care and will be raised to new life when Christ returns. We as a congregation are well aware of those to whom we have said goodbye in the past few months. Remember them as well, and give thanks that they are among the millions throughout history who have finished this earthly race in the faith.
Then be sure to enjoy this secular holiday and all its festivities, too! For what it’s worth, my favorite part of Halloween is how the price of Halloween candy plummets on the next day. Enjoy this introspective yet joyous season, church!